On the Meaning of Home and Prayers for Fort McMurray

So much more than the roof overhead

On the Meaning of Home and Prayers for Fort McMurray

Forest Fire in Fort McMurray |

I've been imagining, as I listen to news about the fires ravaging Alberta right now, about the families. And that perennial question: when you are told to flee, what do you take with you? What gets left behind, forsaken?

Beyond your people, beyond your pets, I mean, what do you reach for when you have to go - RIGHT NOW - and the future of your home hangs in the balance, unknown? Will you have a home to go back to...?

As questions go, this one is a fresh mosquito bite that in spite of yourself, even though you know better, you can't stop scratching.

"We didn't realize how serious it was until we went out to the parking lot and the sky was orange." Images of the orange sky have burned into the memory of many Canadians this week.

And here I find myself wondering what I would do faced with that awful question, knowing any answer I could possibly come up with would fall short, wanting.

I'm not typically a sentimental person. I don't own any jewelry or original works of art. So much of what I own - TVs, computers, sofas, linens - would go up in smoke in a heartbeat, and I wouldn't mourn the loss too greatly (although, in my way I suppose I put some degree of thought and care into selecting those items).

But the fact is, so much of what we have is material and immaterial at the same time.

Some sensible people would reach for their passports and other important documents kept in safes. I am not a sensible person, I'll admit as much. Rarely am I ruled by a cooled head. My photographs aren't neatly contained in a hard drive I can scoop up and take with me. So many albums I couldn't possibly cart them under my arms... I've always preferred to hold my son's baby pictures in my hands, ditto to the books on my shelves dating back to my school days.

So much of what is prized in my life is not so much what's in my house, but in the actual bones of it. The four walls, the space and the physical feeling of the bricks and mortar itself. The difference between a house and a home. 

I guess that atmosphere could be recreated wherever my family goes. And we have uprooted before, by choice.

What is happening to the families in Alberta is different.

The effects of an evacuation, or so I imagine, will leave a gaping hole in the lives of these residents.

The loss will ripple out in concentric circles for years to come. I pray that these families find the strength to heal.

Home is so much more than the roof over your head. It's more than just a shell where you go to rest your head at night. Home is a feeling, an energy you create. On some level that energy gets absorbed into the walls, into the very fabric of the building. 

Consider the emotional attachment you feel for your childhood home... If I close my eyes, I can vividly remember so much about the apartment I grew up in. It's a connection I want my son to feel for our current home. I would hate for us to have to leave it before we're ready, before he's ready...

There is no right answer to the question. No matter what you take, so much is left behind. 

 Please help those affected by the wildfires in any way you can.


Did Spa Discriminate Against Mom and Baby?

A spa is not a childcare facility

Did Spa Discriminate Against Mom and Baby?

Newsflash: moms need to get a life, too. And as paying customers, don't we deserve to be served like everyone else? A New Brunswick mom is fighting for her right to a spa treatment, after she was turned away for bringing her baby with her.

Sacha DeWolfe called a human rights failure when staff at Fredericton's Avalon Spa refused to serve her with her infant in tow.

While on maternity leave, the 37 year-old brought her five month-old baby, who was asleep in a car seat at the time, to her eyebrow waxing appointment.

"I was mistakenly under the impression, I guess, that I could bring my child to a service and expect to be served," said DeWolfe, who is now pushing to have the province's legislation amended to include discrimination against children.

The spa stands by its decision to ban children from the premises. Initially, Avalon owner Peggy Jewett cited safety concerns as the primary reason for the exclusion.

"There's hot wax, there's sharp tweezers, there's a whole bunch of things," said Jewett. "Even when you're doing a pedicure and you clip a nail, like, nails fly. I mean, we've had people get nails in their eyes. You know, things happen. It's a legit safety thing."

But it seems the tune changes for paying customers. If children of a certain age (usually 12 and up) are allowed as customers when accompanied by an adult, then those safety concerns can't be all that "legit." And presumably those safety concerns would apply to adults, too.

The real issue is other customers. People go to the spa to relax, after all. Music plays softly; lights are dimmed. In fact, many women go for a break from their own children.

Part of what they are paying for, claims Jewett, is a "quiet service," such as a facial or massage. "I would offend our other clients if somebody had a baby up there crying, or a two-year-old running around."

Childcare can be difficult to swing for many moms. Let's face it, though, some businesses just aren't suitable environments for babies and young children. In such situations the exclusion is not discriminatory, as it was in this case; it has everything to do with the nature of the business in question.

The fact is, while a mom is having hot wax poured on her or having her nails painted, she's not in a position to actively tend to her child. And if she is not able to actively tend to her kid, then her kid probably shouldn't be there. A spa is not a childcare facility, nor should we expect it to be.  

Some spas offer specific times and days when moms can bring in young children, which is awesome. It's up to parents to check first and take their business to a spa that serves their needs - not vice-versa.

 RELATED: The One Thing Moms Really Want for Mother's Day 


Is Wine an Inappropriate Gift for Teachers?

"Our child might be the reason you drink..."

Is Wine an Inappropriate Gift for Teachers?

Buying Alcohol for Teachers Gifts: Yay or Nay |

There's no downplaying the mammoth role teachers play in our kids'  lives. So how do you show gratitude to the person you entrust not only with your child's education, but with their wellbeing every single day?

If you're Stacy Dutton, you buy them a nice bottle of vino. 

The Portland, Oregon mom-of-two, who runs a stationary company, ventured beyond the generic gift card and designed a personalized wine bottle. The label featured a photograph of her child with the slogan: "Our child might be the reason you drink, so enjoy this bottle on us."

Even though the gift was intended to be tongue-in-cheek, many felt her offering was wholly inappropriate.

"People either love it or they hate it," admitted Dutton after her post on Reddit generated a lot of attention, both good and bad. "All it was ever meant to be was just a nice, funny, light-hearted gift."

Though Dutton was careful not to deliver the alcohol on school property, some saw her choice as setting a poor example to students - namely, by implying that booze is a go-to way to deal with job stress. 

With teachers generally maxed out on mugs and Starbucks vouchers, it can be tricky for parents to dream up a gift that is unique and also meaningful. And besides, not everyone drinks coffee... 

Dutton doesn't advocate gifting wine to each and every educator. But if there is a personal relationship established, why not? 

"I know my son's teachers very well," said Dutton. "... I knew they were going to find the gift funny and humorous. And, since he had kind of just started his terrible two's, I thought it would be a fun, appropriate gift."

While I have never given a teacher alcohol as a gift, I see no great harm in giving a nice bottle or LCBO gift card to a teacher if you know their tastes. A former employer always gave staff a box of wine at Christmas.

I'm not saying booze makes the perfect gift. Still, Dutton doesn't deserve the pitchforks. It's not as if teachers are going to cork the bottle at their desk over lunchtime.

After all, educators are human beings, too. They deserve to let their hair down like everyone else once the bell tolls, and wine o'clock rolls around...   

 RELATED: Teacher's 10 Minute Daily Ritual with Students is Awesome